CLEARWATER, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - "When we started the foundation in 2015, we wanted to focus on getting veterans out and active and one of the best ways to do that is recreational sports," said U.S. Marine Corps veteran and CEO of Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch, Mike Delancey. He has a passion for helping other veterans.
"I joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2004," said Delancey. He was critically injured during military combat in Iraq. "September 1st of 2006, I was on dismounted foot patrol and shot by a sniper. When I came to out of the hospital, I was rendered paralyzed from about the chest down. From there, I started getting out and I had a very strong family and friend support basis kind of kicking my butt to get out of the house and do things. I found that adaptive sports was great. And I started mentoring other veterans and telling them the same thing."
Tuesday, his non-profit joined forces with the Mike Alstott Family Foundation ahead of Veterans Day to host a wheelchair flag football game. But it wasn't just the veterans who participated. Some of the players in wheelchairs were local police officers and other first responders who wanted a chance on the gridiron too.
"It kind of shows them what we go through in the game and from our perspective it really grows the sport. When people get in the chair and feel what's going on, they get a little more attached to it and want to come watch us play," said Delancey. "It's not just really the sport, it's about getting around people with a similar injury, learning how they do things."
We even got a chance to catch up with former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Mike Alstott, who coached the game with his son, Griffin, at quarterback.
"We come together, the veterans come, and we usually have flag football game at a park and just hang out and have a good time with each other and have some food like we're going to do now," said Alstott. He says he was pleasantly surprised at the grit and competition. "They got really, really competitive and even with the chairs here, I mean you had guys flipping over and doing this and that and I'm like, 'whoa'. But they're like, 'get me up, let's go!' So it was pretty amazing. Very thankful for the veterans."
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